Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Us

The amount of carbon we release into the environment, in the form of CO2, gets a lot of attention, but our actions are changing the natural balance of other nutrients too.

Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential for life. But human activity has changed their natural cycle, and we’re releasing these nutrients at a much greater rate than ecosystems are adapted for. In the right amounts these elements will help an ecosystem thrive, but too much can overwhelm it. For example, sprinkling fertilizer on your lawn will ensure green, healthy grass. But when extra fertilizer is washed away with the rain, it enters another part of the ecosystem, and it can cause algae in lakes and rivers to bloom out of control, suffocating other forms of life.

The more nutrients we use and emit, the further they affect the world beyond our homes. But how do we begin to study the complicated flow of nutrients from our towns and cities?

Read on to find out!